Domestic violence should be a concern for leadership. Well beyond the individual who suffers the mental or physical abuse, friends, family members, and coworkers’ lives are also vulnerable to potential violence. Anyone in close proximity to the victim is in potential danger. It gets worse . . .
The family may know something isn’t right. A friend may be a confidante. But, when the victim doesn’t talk about or report the attacks to leadership, coworkers, leadership and team members are clueless about what may well be — emanate danger.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that more than 25% of women and 1 in 10 men will encounter domestic violence.
- According to Legal Momentum, organizations are negatively impacted as victims lose an average of 137 hours of work a year. Intimate partner violence causes victims to lose 32,000 full-time jobs each year.
- Organizations experience an uptick in personal or sick time as some need time off from work to seek medical attention, a restraining order, or a safe place to stay.
Some states have established law with respect to organizational obligations to domestic violence victims. Some have not. Beyond that, and regardless of legislation, workplace violence can be avoided or mitigated by supporting victims who may show high levels of absenteeism, may disclose the situation to leadership, or may suffer mental health repercussions as a result of the trauma.
The C-Suite should meet with Human Resources for guidance on recognizing the symptoms, how to properly approach an employee who shows signs of possible domestic violence, and how to address the greater good in the face of an employee’s right to privacy.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS REGARDING EMPLOYER RESPONSIBILITY
The following Frequently Asked Questions are from the Workplace Fairness website, which is an excellent source of information for leadership.
- I am dealing with a domestic violence situation and afraid I will be fired from my job. Do I have any legal protections?
- I was discriminated against at work for being a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. What rights do I have?
- I was fired because I missed too much work while dealing with an abusive situation. Can I collect unemployment?
- I quit my job to make sure my abuser couldn’t come to work to attack me or create a disruption in the workplace, can I collect unemployment insurance?
- I need to take off from work to go to court, but my employer won’t give me the time off. What can I do?
- I missed work after being battered by my spouse so badly I had to go to the doctor. I was written up for missing work. Is there anything I can do?
- What employment policies might help to protect me in the workplace against domestic violence discrimination?
- How do I find out if my employer has policies that can help?
- How should I talk to my employer or supervisor about my domestic violence situation?
STATE AND LOCAL LAWS CONCERNING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND THE WORKPLACE
Also from the Workplace Fairness website is this list of state legislation governing employer responsibility to domestic violence sufferers.
- District of Columbia
- Minneapolis, Minnesota
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- New York City
- Westchester County, New York
- North Carolina
- Portland, Oregon
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
If your organization does not have a plan for recognizing and supporting employees suffering from domestic violence, proactively develop a plan. To be considered are the following factors:
- It doesn’t matter whether domestic violence victims suffer a single event or ongoing abuse, the abuser may be untethered from reality and the entire workforce needs to be protected from a workplace violence event.
- Include, in your protocol, a systemic communication plan that includes employees and onsite security personnel. The abuser should NOT be allowed to gain access to employees.
- Maximize technology to support allowing domestic violence victims to work remotely in order to reduce productivity-drag that may occur as a result of absenteeism.
- Human resources can advise as to how leadership may weight privacy versus warning the employees of potential workplace violence.